Hard Work In John Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath

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With the evolution of a dream comes the evolution of its methodology. In America, the classic Puritan work ethic was once held as the shining beacon of opportunity; with hard work came the undeniable promise of material riches, a godly social status, and economic security. However, with America’s metamorphosis into an industrial powerhouse and the decline of “old-fashioned” work came the vanishing of this opportunity: the famous dream was no longer accessible or realistic. In John Steinback’s The Grapes of Wrath, the Joad family endures countless trials and tribulations in their search for hard work, only to have the promised “dream” fail them in every way possible throughout their journey. In the 1930s, hard work appears irrelevant to the…show more content…
With the introduction of new mass-farming techniques and modernized machinery, the proletariat lifestyle depletes with the individual work ethic it accompanies. For, example, even when the Joads reach the land of “milk and honey”, the overtaking of industrial farming results in few private owned farms: even the Farmer’s Association is governed by the bank (294). When founding father Thomas Jefferson described the ideal, hard-working American, he envisioned that “…as few as possible [Americans] shall be without a little portion of land” (Jefferson). The deviation from this principle in the 1930s introduces the change of the prospect. The departure from the traditional, fool-proof method of success lies in who is making the wealth: not those who put their blood into the soil they cultivate, but rather those who stoically drive a tractor over chemically-treated produce. With booming industry in both the life of the Joads and the lives of 1930s Americans, hard work cannot implement in evolving society. In “What Is an American?”, Hector St. John de Crevecouer explains that “…what they [farmers] get is their own” (144). In the old ways of the American dream, this statement bears truth; however, with the perversion of its evolution, hard work is no longer accessible. The earth used to present an equal work opportunity to all; however, industrialization takes possession of the most basic,…show more content…
Once the cornerstone of American success, it is thought that no matter what outside circumstances, hard work can always be an idea to fall back on. The Joads encounter this empty promise firsthand when they see the orange handbills that ask for fruit pickers for good wages in California (189). The family is motivated by the romantic illusion that a myriad of different jobs will be waiting for them in California, and that they will have seemingly guaranteed employment in a hyperbolically Utopian land, filled with empty job positions and “little white houses in among the orange trees” (91). However, the dream itself has evolved so much that even the promise of hard work is insubstantial, and betrays the Joads as they complete their migration, only to see that their “promised land” has little to no work opportunities. Hector St. John de Crevecouer explains that in America, “…the rewards of his [the worker’s] industry follow with equal steps the promise of his labor…” (142). However, when the dream evolves, what happens when the promise of labor no longer exists? Previously a concept that could pacify those with the hope of one day being employed, the American dream falls short of its reputation, and no longer sustains the seeming “guarantee” of labor. The promised land, in reality, is only a promise, for the Joads cannot even be guaranteed the bare minimum of manual

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